February 5, 2014
Push-ups are considered one of the best body-weight exercises. And for good reason. This exercise builds optimal upper-body strength in the chest, shoulders and arms, and when done properly, the push-up can also help build a strong core by actively engaging the abdominal and low-back muscles. Add gluteals and legs that help keep the lower body lifted and you’ve got a multi-purpose exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime. The push-up is the most basic of exercises, yet it yields a huge return on your exercise investment.
Push-ups can also give a boost to your ego and self-esteem. Advancing your push-up from the knees to the toes is empowering; it’s also a great marker that upper-body and core strength have improved. But don’t stop there! With variations that add rotation, traveling or lifting a limb, push-ups offer a variety of challenges that not only boost your confidence, but also improve your overall flexibility, athletic performance and real-life strength.
Kneeling Triceps Push-up to Child Pose
This push-up variation enables you to stretch and strengthen all in one move.
Set Up: Begin in child’s pose, sitting all the way onto the heels with arms stretched out in front of you.
Execution: Lift off the heels, stay on the knees and lower down into a triceps push-up. The insides of the arms should be close to the torso, elbows pointing back. Press back up and return to the child pose. Perform two sets of 10 repetitions.
Tips: Keep tension in the abdominals and resist the temptation to drop to the floor.
Option: To add more strength to this exercise, push back and keep the glutes lifted up instead of releasing all the way to the shell stretch.
No need to perform those push-ups on your toes quite yet. This hover push-up variation is deceivingly challenging for your upper body and core.
Set Up: Begin in quadruped position, with arms slightly wider than shoulders, feet together and knees pointing outward.
Execution: Push off the balls of the feet and lift the knees, while continuing to keep the knees hovered over the floor while performing the push-up. Perform 10 reps.
Tips: Make sure to keep weight in the balls of the feet.
Option: Release the knees back to the floor between each rep
Push-up With Hip Abduction
This variation really challenges your core and balance because one leg is held off the ground away from the midline.
Set Up: Begin in high plank position with arms slightly wider than shoulders. Lift the right leg off the floor and move it out to the side.
Execution: Perform the push-up while holding the right leg up and out through the entire push-up movement. Perform six to eight reps and switch sides, holding the left leg up and out.
Tips: Contract your glutes and quadriceps to assist in keeping the right leg lifted.
Option: This exercise can be performed on the knees.
Shoulder mobility and flexibility is needed for this push-up variation. Transferring your weight as you roll the body from prone to supine will challenge both your core strength and overall body balance.
Set Up: Begin in high plank position with arms directly underneath the shoulders.
Execution: This is a three-part exercise (push-up, reverse plank, high plank). One complete roll is one rep. Perform six to eight reps.
Perform one triceps push-up.
Lift the left arm and roll into a side plank. Continue rolling, placing the left arm back on the ground, landing in a reverse plank.
Lift the right arm up and roll into a side plank. Continue rolling, placing the right arm back on the ground into high plank. Start the series over again with one push-up and roll in the opposite direction.
Tips: Focus on a keeping continuous energy through the arms and shoulders; also, keep the hips lifted, especially when moving into the reverse plank.
Stephanie Thielen, BS, has a fitness career that spans over 24 years with experience in group fitness training and management in the community, corporate and collegiate setting. As an ACE Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer, two-time IDEA Presenter, NETA trainer, AEA Trainer, and BOSU National Master Trainer, Stephanie provides land and aquatic workshops that teach logical methods for class construction, providing the “tools of the trade” to assist fitness professionals develop their teaching skills. Find Stephanie on Facebook at Stephanie Thielen Fitness, LLC.